My boyfriend broke up with me because of my bipolar disorder. Read that again. Nope, you didn’t read it wrong. That’s the truth.
I won’t pretend there weren’t a load of other reasons mixed in but they all linked back to mental health.
I cried for hours every single day for 12 days until one day I woke up and realised I deserve better than that. I haven’t written a blog post in absolutely ages but the sheer scale of my emotions over the last couple of weeks can only be calmed by me writing this all down. So here I go.
“Can I be honest Fran? I don’t think I can deal with the bipolar.”
Ouch. That hurt. We’d been arguing and ‘breaking up’ for a couple of days but I didn’t understand the reasons why. Nothing felt big enough to break up over. But when that sentence hit my ear drums, I heard it loud and clear. He was right – it was a very honest thing to say and he admitted he felt like a dick saying it. I would rather he told me there was someone else, he was moving to Australia, or that he just didn’t love me anymore. But none of those things were true. I was “beautiful, amazing, inspirational, funny, intelligent, and the best relationship” he’d had. (Thanks for the reminder, hun). But my recent bipolar diagnosis was apparently too much.
A Whirlwind Relationship
We’d only been together 6 months but it was one of those whirlwind relationships where you immediately connect, become best friends, and spend every second together. I’d never done that before. I’d always been extremely guarded with my emotions and dragged out any ‘official’ status for months (yet still always ended up getting hurt), but with this relationship I went into it from day one with no walls surrounding me. How stupid, huh? He’d met my daughter and they’d formed their own little bond. Compared to my past relationships, things were perfect. We met on the dating app Hinge – he was the first person I’d ever given my number to, the first app-date I’d ever been on, and the first person I’d told every detail of my life to straight away. I didn’t want a boyfriend, I wanted a ‘drink’, so I didn’t care about embarrassing myself with my over-sharing. I told him I was seeing a psychiatrist, and then the next day we spent 4 hours on the phone debriefing my appointment.
“Shit, I think I may have found someone who gets all of this.”
Three months into our relationship, I suffered some kind of episode. I couldn’t tell you whether I was depressed, manic, or something else, but I ended up in a psychiatric hospital and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I’d known I’d had this for about a year after speaking with many other health professionals, but for this serious illness only a psychiatrist can officially diagnose it. Now, bipolar disorder isn’t something that just goes away, but it is something that can be managed with medication. I was given antipsychotic drugs (sounds scary right?) and encouraged to lead a better lifestyle. And I thought that was it – the start of my new crazy-free life.
At this point, if he had decided to walk away, I’m not sure I’d have blamed him. He’d known me 20 seconds and had no real obligation to stick around through this life-changing situation. But he stuck around and supported me.
I won’t pretend the next 3 months were smooth sailing. I was completely shattered from the effects of the medication and I was putting on weight. Lockdown was in full swing and we were living in each other’s pockets. His job was stressful and like the entire rest of the world, things were hard.
I wasn’t surprised we were arguing but hearing that one of the main reasons he was breaking up with me was because of the bipolar disorder completely broke me. I must have been deluded – ironically one of the symptoms of the disorder – I thought I had been managing really well and I can honestly say the previous 3 months since the diagnosis were the most stable of my entire life. My thoughts were clear, my behaviour was ordinary, my productivity levels were high but not too high, my sleeping pattern was healthy, I was thriving. So what was wrong?
A Possible Lack of Understanding?
Without going into detail about someone else’s issues, he wasn’t 100% and despite harbouring feelings of intense injury, I’m not angry at him. I wonder whether he was confusing my general personality for my bipolar disorder – something I’ve since discovered happens all too often with people with the disorder.
Bipolar disorder is characterised by an individual’s mood switching between long periods of severe depression and periods of mania. Typically, these periods can last weeks to months. And there can be long periods of stability in between. But do you know what isn’t bipolar disorder? A little moodswing here and there. He told me he never knew which version of me he was going to get. Sometimes I was hyper and fun, and sometimes I was low and stressed. Well I gotta tell ya something hun, that’s just people for ya, especially me. Being a business owner means some days I am on top of the world and some days I want to stop the world and get off. It’s just life. Add to that, I’m dramatic AF and have a pretty intense personality which people either get or don’t. But none of that is because of bipolar disorder – that’s just me. I think some education around the condition could have really helped the situation. I’m still learning more about it every day myself.
Dealing With It and Moving On
So, the one person I thought was going to be by my side through my journey, isn’t. It was a short but intense relationship and although I was gutted, I’m a big girl and I’ll get over it. Once the worst of the pain had passed, I went to see him to get my stuff from his house and we chatted. This time it was a much less emotionally-fuelled conversation. I told him that what he said hurt and he may as well have said “I’m breaking up with you because you have cancer”.
He apologised for how it came across and was able to explain to me a bit more clearly what he meant. He felt like I wasn’t taking the diagnosis seriously and wasn’t doing my best to look after myself. When he would ask me if I had taken my medication, I’d usually reply something like “Hahahaha oops nope, I’ve forgotten again, classic Fran, I can’t take tablets, this is how I ended up pregnant twice”. And that would annoy him. When it came to bedtime and I was still tapping away on my laptop getting in some extra work despite the doctor telling me I need to prioritise sleeping, that would annoy him. He said he couldn’t be there for me if I wasn’t going to take it seriously, and maybe he has a point. But maybe this was just my way of dealing with the transition.
That calmer conversation was something I really needed. No-one likes to end things with an argument and I’m glad we can sort of be friends. The whole experience gave me a lot to think about. Do I tell the next person I meet about the bipolar immediately or do I wait until I trust them? Do I need to take it all a bit more seriously or can I go on balancing my crazy lifestyle with a serious mental illness? But most of all, I’ve learnt I’m not changing for anyone. I’m Francesca, I’m intense, I’m shy, I’m high, I’m low, I’m silly, I’m serious. I have bipolar disorder, but it doesn’t define me.
You’ll just have to deal with it.